Monster In Fiction
It occurred to me, sitting here on week three of being unable to edit my latest story, that I have been feeding the monsters in my own fiction. Nobody talks about the monsters inside while writing a story. Everyone expounds the prose, theme, style and little snares within the English Language that causes writers to trip along the way. I figure it’s time to get my monsters out of my brain, just a bit, and hopefully set them free instead of feeding the bears at Yellowstone National Park.
Warning to those faint of heart: Stop here, read next week’s blog post and hope everything moves on. I write this to let loose, not for anyone to sit and decide how much of me needs psychological help, or a wave of pity that followed like Jaws following the chum trail.
For anyone writing, as I am, or perhaps in a more strategic position or having sold, take solace in the fact that you slew your monsters, you didn’t feed them.
When I talk about monster fiction, I don’t think of the Cthulu wave hitting the internet as it does every year. The arguments over if vampires sparkle, or if werewolves actually slip their skin and create cells that regenerate at a high rate for change, but not when they are truly injured. There are deeper monsters you feel before you read the damned story. Monsters that seep into your brain well before the time that ideas take root. They sit and prepare for your creative process to start, as they have already built it’s slippery ladder.
For those in the world who bite their fingernails, pick their scabs, or twirl a piece of their hair in their fingers, will know what I’m talking about. It starts with an idea. The idea that you’re going to try something out of normalcy. Usually spiked by a game, movie, show, or even rpg. RPG is my favorite outlet. I loved turning into someone I wasn’t, and delineating facts in a world that never touched mine. You enjoy something, and one or two facts start mixing in your head until you have to write them down. Either to use in another rpg, write into a story, or make a joke out of them for the next horrible date you pick up.
The monster hatches then, in the idea stage. Oh, you were inspired by something, isn’t that copyright in some way? Shouldn’t Spock get credit for the fact you loved how his pointed ears parted his hair away from his temples? Do you track the mean lady at the grocery store who smacked you with her purse because your hip accidentally brushed hers? The pain sparked an idea with ears-quick go pay them both.
Its silly, you say. Ideas like that are completely ludicrous, or are they? You make a name for the character only to remember you had a friend by that name in sixth grade, so you erase it and pick a new one. You shorten another character’s hair length, so your current boyfriend won’t think they are in your latest story. In my case, I picked a middle name for my child that is so perfect, and a double entendre in my latest work, that to change it would lose both meanings. And, another monster is born, wondering if she will actually talk when she grows up and some caretaker will sue you for using her name in a book. My own daughter, yet I worry about this, that there is another monster in my head, a monster in fiction that I can’t slay.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
I have three beautiful bet readers for my latest work, but unable to edit consistently for them, as these monsters take my thoughts and turn them into fig pudding. Everyone says ‘just write’, or ‘reading and writing are the two constants in being an author, you need to be willing to do both.’ Obviously, neither of these people saw the monsters in fiction.
The problem isn’t the story, the problem is my fear of it. I am in my 6th draft, editing to a goal of 3 chapters a week and failing miserably. Am I done writing it? Well I wrote it out. I have drives of old versions, changed it from third to first person, character adjustments, lexicon additions and spans of historical data. I threw out my prologue, all 13k words of it. Debated using the prologue as a short story then realized that if I wanted to keep writing in this world, I didn’t want the first piece let out of the bag to be a teaser like the prologue.
I don’t worry about if I have used present or past tense, passive voice, oxford commas and even existential prose. I worry about what’s happening to me. I made a promise to my late mother and my current boyfriend that I would send one out to agents.
Now, we step into the heart of the monster’s lair, my own mind. I try to edit and end up in tears. Am I insane? What gives me the right to expose my characters to others? How could I ever ask trees to sacrifice themselves for a lame joke or a quick fight? If I publish, my mother will be right, that I only tried after she was gone to spite her.
Don’t just tell me to write, talk to me about it. How do I know if my red-haired male protagonist switching to a caramel colored black man is a success or a joke? Is some African American going to find me and beat me down in a parking lot one day for describing the pigment of the skin that way? If I laugh at something in my prose, does that mean it’s stupid? Stupid because nobody seems to understand me, so the more I relate to my own work the more frightened I get that I am writing nothing.
I fear that everyone will laugh at my book idea, that everyone won’t either. If I submit, who’s to say that agents won’t think its drivel, in the wrong genre, oh there’s three typos on one page therefore the writer has no skill or grace? People think vampires are dead, angels are placated, and demons are simply a better way to do devious business. Does having all three in my work bury me under a pile of other manuscripts I will never get out from under?
I have nobody to talk to about this daily, no true comrade in arms. No dinner dates, or conference meetings, or panels to prepare for this time. I face going to Salt Lake Comiccon in September with nothing to show for it, as I haven’t worked in three weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, there is something to work on, but it’s too hard to think about. My head is full of the monsters in fiction, and there is no exterminator team in sight.
Will people think I included an autistic child to check off some imaginary box, instead of realizing some of the things she did in her past are too damned funny to pass up?
Will someone read my main character, who is a simple sexual polyander, and think I am imitating someone else?
Will some gun fanatic come at me with a loaded weapon one day because my character starts from the super basic fundamental of carrying an unloaded gun around for practice?
I had an agent last month tell me that its standard to throw out the first 2-3 chapters of any book to make it good. Will they tell me that, not realizing I already chucked 4 prologues and 6 first chapters?
Will my late mother haunt me every night for daring to get published after she passed away?
Can my boyfriend tone down his competitive nature long enough to actually support my writing, instead of getting his backbone twisted over his own fan-fiction every time I clear a hurdle?
Does anyone talk the way I do anymore? Since nobody in my immediate vicinity seems to understand me?
How can I publish, when some agent, or editor, or fan will find me ‘not aesthetically pleasing’, to put it lightly.
Will I ever be able to go to a popular con outside of Utah when I can’t fly.
Take all these questions above, times by ten, and shove them into 60 seconds of the time I think about my writing. This is the small food chain of the monster in my fiction. I am not being contrite, or pretentious, or even needy. A good therapist, or research, or even ‘Elements of Style’, by Strunk & White will not steer me clear of them. I sit and weep, I wake up when I can sleep, in a cold sweat. I dread every movement of my fingers as they possibly compound the situation. My cheeks flame in embarrassment just by the notion that someone is going to pay money to read my drivel.
No, there are no tricks that can help clear the monsters in my fiction.
A good friend might…
Then again, everyone is too busy for it.
All I can say is please forgive me while I become a better monster hunter, never to be confused in the same arena of Larry Correia.